(As always if you are new to the book here are links to the earlier chapters, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 , Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, and Chapter 7).
"Ready and Waiting." Came the reply.
"I'll be there in two minutes."
Byron pulled into the passenger pickup amidst the blaring whistle that was being wielded by a man in a yellow vest. This man’s sole job was to make sure no one stopped in in passenger pickup long enough to pick up a passenger. It was an epic battle and dance. Drivers anxious to avoid another loop around the maze that tried to direct vehicles there for pickup, drop-off, buses, taxis, cellphone parking, economy parking and regular parking around the airport did their best to avoid the whistle blowing, yellow jacketed man who repeated in a loud voice between whistle blows to keep moving. While the yellow jacket used the weapon of a sharp whistle and loud voice drivers employed a far more effective weapon, fanned ignorance. Step 1 was avoiding eye contact while crawling at 0.5 mph, hoping their brother, wife, niece or business partner would emerge. But with the constant whistle and yelling eye contact could only be avoided for so long and then it was time for step 2. It was the age old, “who me,” look. “You were yelling and blowing your whistle at me?” The shocked look of bewilderment and forcing the yellow jacket to give the “yes, you, get moving,” look back, will buy you an extra 30-45 seconds. At that point one is forced to move along. That is unless you are lucky enough for Yellow Jacket to turn their attention to the next car that is avoiding their eye contact. At which point, you can say, “oh, I guess you weren’t yelling at me.” And go back to step 1.
Byron noticed one particularly adept driver ahead. This driver feigned ignorance so well, one wondered if any feigning was involved. There they sat parked in passenger pickup line with no passenger in sight. The yellow jacket blew a loud whistle, then yelled, “move along,” while breathing in, a skill they must have learned as part of circular breathing training back when they were the first chair didgeridoo player, then blew an even longer, louder whistle. The parked driver, sans passenger sat acting totally oblivious. 100% successful at the eye contact avoidance. With the trusty whistle and yell routine not producing satisfaction the yellow jacket approached and knocked on the window. The driver debated feigning deafness but ultimately acknowledged the yellow jacket and the window began its descent.
“You can’t park here. You need to keep moving.”
Blank stare was the only reply.
“If your passenger is not here you need to move along.” This was followed by an arm motion meant to portray the movement the yellow jacket hoped to inspire.
Byron was wondering how much money the yellow jacket must be paid in order to show such dedication to the cause of proper traffic flow, when the driver finally responded. “Como?”
“You think, I believe, you don’t speak English?” The yellow jacket protested.
Byron never thought he’d be on the side of the yellow jacket but he thought he had a point. In the ultra PC world that he found himself Byron hated to show prejudice, even in his own mind, but the driver made pasty Byron look like a minority. Indeed, the very white man, with red hair, in the Black Mercedes Benz did not pass for your typical non-English speaking immigrant. But either he didn’t speak English or he was a very committed actor.
Just then, a lovely young woman, with even redder hair, ran up to the car pulled open the back door and said, “Hey, Dad.”
Embarrassment flushed over the drivers face, he stammered as she got in the car. “What’s wrong Daddy?”
The yellow jacket gave a world class condescending stair. The man chose to respond with the gas pedal, leaving the yellow jacket to turn his anger and whistle onto Byron. Luckily, weapons were useless because Byron had what he needed, a passenger. Behind the benz stood his ticket to park. He was happy to avoid feigning ignorance or lack of ability to speak English and stepped out of the car turning to his passenger, “Hey, Dad.”
Once back in the car, silence prevailed for an uncomfortable length of time. “So, was the flight good?’ Byron asked.
“Yea, as good as a six-hour flight can be.”
“So, how’s the town?”
“Not much changes there. That’s why I like it.”
Silence again settled in. Both men loved each other but neither was much for expressing it. Lately, when in each others presence they weren’t much of expressing anything. And lately, would only be an apt description if speaking in geologic times. Truthfully, they had only ever really reacted well when combined with the proper catalyst and that catalyst had always been Byron’s Mom. Somehow, she knew exactly how to keep the family properly mixed. And six years ago, when she passed away with cancer they now small, 2 person family fell apart.
Not that there was any fighting or animosity, there was just no, well anything. Without his Mother to play instigator, not got instigated. Byron’s Dad did call every year on Byron’s birthday and said, “Well, Happy Birthday Son.” At that point the call became much like this ride from the airport was turning into, awkward silence, with small burst of superficial questions to avoid complete failure to interact.
Just such a burst started when Dad asked, “So, everything ready for the big day?”
“Yea. Julie’s really done most of the planning and work.”
“Makes sense…Not that you can’t plan, but women…” He was about to say that they are better at these things, but realized saying one gender was above another was not the thing to say now a days and instead just left the thought as incomplete as their conversation.
On the birthday call this was the part when one of them would say, “Well, better get going.” But today with both sitting in the car, they knew that any going was to be done together.
It was as he grabbed the suitcase from the trunk that he remembered the one thing he needed to ask his Dad. The one thing he was solely in charge of.
“Oh Dad, did you bring the tux?”
“Sure Did. Had it cleaned just before I came. This will be the first time it has been worn since Mom and I got married.”
Byron could have gone without the last line. It wasn’t that he wasn’t sentimental, he could be. But, so far, he had done his best to separate, real life family, marriage and indeed love from the business transaction that would take place in the morning. Exactly how far he tried to separate the two came out to Julie two weeks prior.
“You got your hundred invites, correct?” Julie has asked.
“Yup.” Byron honestly responded.
“Have you sent them out? I was up the last two nights getting all mine in the mail.”
“I handed some out.”
“What do you mean, ‘you handed some out? Like you passed them out to some homeless as they walked by?”
“No. I gave a few out at work.” And this he had done. His office only contained himself and his assistant Mrs. Whitacker. So, she got one. But since he was anxious to have this connected with work, he gave out invites to anyone connected with work. Dr. Morris and Dr. Reise, whom he both consulted with and referred patients to each got one. The office manager who ran the building they leased space in. Even the guy who owned the shop two doors down that he usually got lunch from, got one, but that was it.
“What did you do with the rest?” Julie asked.
“Are you going to mail any?”
“Maybe,” he looked at her face, “I mean, yes.”
“What about your family?”
“We are not that close.”
“You aren’t going to invite your parents to your own wedding?”
“Well, my Mom passed away, and I didn’t want to bother my Dad.”
“Bother? I can’t believe you won’t invite your Dad. You two must really hate each other.”
“No.” Byron shot defensively. “Nothing like that. We just, aren’t…you know…close.” Byron stuttered out.
“I guess, it’s none of my business, but I think you should invite your Dad. If your only son doesn’t invite you to his wedding, you might be fairly hurt.”
Julie was spot on, as usual, and he knew it. “You are right, I’ll send him an invite.”
“You might want to lead it with a phone call, as a follow to him getting the invite in the mail.”
“Yeah, good point.”
However, two days later as he walked out of the second tux rental that had nothing for the weekend he needed it, he still hasn't gotten around to calling his Dad, when he got a text from Julie. “How’d your call go with your Dad?”
Rather than respond that it hadn’t gone at all he decided to get it over with. So, for the first time since his Mother had died, he called home.
“Hi Dad. It’s Byron.”
“Hey Son, um, you okay?”
“Yeah, I am just calling to say, I’m getting married.”
“Wow…not that it’s surprising, but, wow. Great. Congratulations”
“I was calling to see if you wanted to come.”
“You bet, when is it?”
“A week from Friday.”
The pause made it clear that, that was sooner than his Dad expected and perhaps that he had previous plans. So, Byron continued, “If you can’t make it, I totally understand.”
“No, no, I’ll be there. I wouldn’t miss it.”
“Great, an invitation will be there in a few days with all the details.”
“I’ll watch for it.”
There was a pause that was very common between them and Byron was about to go to the standard, ‘I better get going.’ When Dad asked, “Do you need anything? I mean I could help pay for something. I know weddings can be expensive.”
“No Dad, that’s fine, we have it all covered.”
“Can’t I do something to help?”
“Not unless you have a tuxedo to rent. I guess we chose a popular weekend to get hitched.”
“I’ve got my tux, from my wedding.”
“Oh Dad, that’s fine, you don’t have to bring it. I’m sure I can figure something out.”
“It wouldn’t be any trouble. After all, it might as well go to use. It’s just been sitting in the closet. It should fit as…” Dad’s tried to determine how to ask this delicately, but nothing came to mind. “I mean, as long as you haven’t gained too much weight.”
“I still wear the same size I did in college.” While this was true, it was only because as a Doctor he had been in college for a long time. And while the same size did fit it took considerably more pulling and squeezing to get into than it used to.
“Great, then I’ll bring it.”
And he did. Once inside Dad placed his suitcase on the ground and pulled out a long black suit bag on top.
“Here you go Son.”
“Thanks for bringing it.”
Byron quickly showed his Father to his room.
“Well, the ceremony is tomorrow at 9:30 A.M. so, we better leave around 9. I don’t want to be late for my own wedding.”
“Sounds good. Goodnight Son.”
Byron turned towards his own room.
“Oh, and Son.”
“Yes.” Byron responded as he turned back to his Dad. It took a second for his Dad to get it out but he eventually got out, “Congratulations, I’m very proud of you.”
Byron paused, He wasn’t used to his Dad showing any emotion and he could tell that last line was as hard for his Father to deliver as it was awkward for him to hear.
“Yeah… Thanks Dad. Goodnight. And let me know if you need anything.”
“Will do, goodnight.”
Byron dashed off into his room anxious to see if the tuxedo would indeed fit. He had wanted to wear his regular suite but Julie was adamant that he wear a tuxedo, and Byron had no intention of disappointing her at this point. Over the last few weeks he had become well acquainted with her and it wasn’t that he feared her, but she did have a presence that portrayed certain expectations, and wanted to see them met. Truth was, he enjoyed making her happy. And while he would never admit it to anyone, especially himself, the saddest part of marrying Julie was he knew it would bring an end to their time together.
Perhaps he would have been able to explore these feelings in more detail if other fears were not rising in his gut as the zipper descended. Fit, was his top concern, but no more. He raced through the flashcards of his memory to try to recall if he had ever seen a picture of his parents at their wedding. While the fast-paced world of fashion, particularly women fashion, changed all the time, the simple elegant tuxedo had changed very little. Or at least that is what Byron had assumed until that zipper had finished it’s decent.
He was face to face with proof that a tuxedo from the 1970’s and one today had diverged in a major way. Before him was a baby blue jacket and pants. To match a white shirt and in place of the vertical pleats so common down the face of tuxedo shirts of today was curled lace in vertical orientation with swirled baby blue threading to tie it back to the rest of the ensemble. And to ensure completeness there was the baby blue bow tie and cummerbund.
Even as brief as his Dad oft was he thought when he had offered his tuxedo he could have mentioned that no human had been seen in such a suite since John Lennon had sung with the Beatles.
Five minutes later he had verified that, while tight, it did indeed fit, but could he wear it? Julie had said she wanted a tuxedo, but while she may be upset if he showed up in a boring black suite, she might shoot him if he showed up in the baby blue beauty that he now admired in the mirror before him. If only they were getting wed at the end of a Halloween ball.
His Dad expected him to wear the tuxedo. Julie expected him to wear the tuxedo. But if you were trying to avoid your wedding looking like a joke this may be the wrong attire. He was unsure what to do, but he was sure of one thing, tomorrow was going to be very interesting.